Senior Advisor to the Chairman on Broadband Phoebe Yang delivered this speech to an array of community groups last week at the Japanese American National Museum in Los Angeles, CA.
It’s very fitting that we should come together today at the Japanese American National Museum to talk about how Asian Americans must be empowered to benefit from the communications network of the 21st century – broadband.
Today, being back in California, I am reminded of the immense sacrifices early Asian Americans made for this country – in the pursuit of the vital goal of connecting people across this vast land to one another.
Today, America has 306 million people to connect – and like in previous centuries with the railroads, telephones, and highways – including voices like those in this room is critical to our nation’s economy, security, and future.
When I shared with some individuals that I was planning on coming here today, their response was that Asian Americans represent such a small minority of the American population – why not focus on other groups? My reply was simple – while all Americans should benefit from all that broadband has to offer, and other groups are also critical to our goals of inclusion, you can’t ignore the role of Asian Americans in building the technology and communications networks of the past, and we would be foolish to underestimate the innovative creativity and spirit of Asian Americans in shaping the communications networks of the future.
Over 20 years ago, when I was a student at the University of Virginia, I founded the Asian Student Union and the Asian Leaders’ Council, to bring together the diverse interests and experiences of different Asian American communities. Due to the limitations of technology at the time – think photocopiers and 25 cents/minute long-distance phone service – it was a struggle for our voice to carry far beyond Charlottesville, Virginia. But within a few years, when I was studying in Singapore, the start of mass Internet communications – e-mail – allowed me to stay in touch with friends and family back in the U.S. and elsewhere.
[Read the full speech here.]